Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ease

Our doubts are traitors
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt.
Measure for Measure Act I, Scene IV

2014 was an important year for me, with the publication of my memoir, Teaching Will: What Shakespeare and 10 Kids Gave Me That Hollywood Couldn't.

I began 2014 filled with resolve and a serious resolution defined by one word: ease.

I was well aware of the mood swings and pitfalls the publishing business could throw writers into and I was determined to avoid that angst. I would meditate every day and do yoga five times a week. I would flow like a river over any bumps or disappointments. I would sustain a giggly joie de vivre and not let that other stuff get me down. No, sir.

Ease. Ease on down the road. Oh yes.

Here's how that went:

I failed. Miserably and consistently. It got to me. The disappointments and the scary what-if-the-book-flops scenarios plagued me daily and the only thing that improved as my moods sank were my headstands. I did so much yoga that I'm as much at home upside down as I am right-side up.

However, around the house, my husband noticed that I'd stopped humming. That there was barely anything or anyone that escaped my scathing criticisms. I'd read the morning news and make catty remarks about politicians, entertainers, and all those other writers getting top-notch press. I'd pick out typos in the newspaper and snarl. Worse, I'd gripe at my husband for tiny infractions. I was not my best self and certainly not someone you'd describe as "at ease with herself."

Here's what I learned in 2014: When I feel inadequate, when I think that I'm a loser and see myself as a junk heap, I'm intolerable and I pick fights.

And I'm not alone in this. When many of us believe that we are less, we take it out on the world. And when those signs show up, there are only a couple of ways I know of to end the grouchies. Starting with: Talk about it and declare what's going on in a solid voice: "I feel like a pile of rubbish."

Working with kids I often heard:
"Ms. Ryane! He's picking on me!"
"Ms. Ryane, tell her to stop!"
"Ms. Ryane, Ms. Ryane, he's bugging me!"

And I get it. Someone's not feeling so good about themselves and acting out. If it's taken me into adulthood to piece this together, what do we expect of children?

It's not enough to yell, "Stop it. Cut it out right now!"

No one can give someone self-esteem. None of us can repair others' damaged psyches. But we can talk about it and get them to talk about it. Out loud. In solid voices.

Generosity is often born of a sense of well-being, but that state can be fleeting. The other solution for grumps is to act benevolent even on days when we feel like crap. Taking even one step to aid another can levitate our sorrow. This, too, we can help kids learn.

So, here we are in 2015, in fine fettle because it's all so new and fresh and possible. I've downgraded my resolution to something more reasonable: Use less water.

Somedays I fail.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry

I learned that I can do anything I like I can be anyone I want I learned that I can do Shakspear.

Well when I was performing in Shakspear I was nerves and scared my fingernails were sweting and I when I saw all the students I was scared. I didn’t think I could do the hole play and when I did my part my legs were shaking and I though was not gowing to live.

Well when I was scared up there I just went for it and did my best I was proud of my self when I did my lines.

—Celia, 5th grade

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